China's largest inland lake in recovery

created: 2009-11-06

The Tibetan herdsman found, to his surprise, the Qinghai Lake was growing.

"The path which I took last year for morning exercise was inundated by water," said Padma, who had formed the habit of taking a stroll near the scenic lake every morning.

In the Jiayi village of the Gonghe county, Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of northwest China's Qinghai Province, his home was several hundreds meters away from the lake.

"It seems that the water is expanding every year, especially this year," he said.

His "finding" was proved by authorities. Statistics from the Qinghai Provincial Hydrographic and Water Resources Survey Bureau showed that water level in the Qinghai Lake had kept rising for five years, and from 2005 to 2008 the growth was 54 centimeters.

The bureau estimated that the growth this year could be about 10 centimeters.

"This is the first time since 1955 when water level kept rising for five consecutive years," said Duan Shuiqiang, a senior engineer from the bureau.

In the past, the water level just rose for two consecutive years, and this occurred twice.

The Qinghai Lake, nesting at the northeastern part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, is China's largest inland lake and saltwater lake. It has been shrinking in the past half a century.

As water level dropped an average of 3.78 meters a year, Qinghai lost nearly a West Lake each year.

A dock of a fishing pool built in the 1960s was abandoned in the 1980s for the lack of water. Cai Qing who worked in the fishing pool for 40 years recalled that he didn't see any water in last year.

"But this year, water reappeared in the dock," he said.

Official survey showed that in 2008, the acreage of Qinghai Lake was 4,317 square kilometers, 132 up from four years ago.

Many experts believed that the recovery of the Qinghai Lake was due to preservation of forest.

From 2002, the province launched a project to restore forest in places which had been turned to crop fields. Farmers could get compensation for the restoration.

To date, 31,333 hectares of fields had been converted to forest. Besides, another 56,600 hectares of forests were preserved.

"Before 2000, the sky was shrouded by sand in windy days," Cai Qing recalled.

"Now the wind is still strong, but we have just a few sandstorms each year," he said.

Forestation improved local climate and brought forth rainfall.

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